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WOMEN'S HEALTH WEDNESDAY // THE SKINNY ON THE STRETCH

written by Kelsey Duchesne 

The first time I noticed my stretch marks I was twelve, sitting on a dock beside a Maine lake, most likely singing Summer Girls by my beloved LFO. I was never small or thin like my beach pals, and my broad shoulders and long body were great for long distance swimming but didn't always feel right in my bathing suit. We were in the midst of puberty and the peak of insecurity, when I looked down to find a sea of silvery lines on my inner thigh. I felt my stomach tense as my friend Sloane looked over. 

“What is that??” She asked me with a mix of shock and concern.

Another friend turned to her and wouldn’t meet my gaze. “I think those are stretch marks. My mom has them.”

I felt my face begin to burn. Mom? Mom??!! At 12, this was the ultimate diss.

 I hunched over, attempting to *casually* drape my arms over my puberty ridden thighs. “Um, no, they’re not stretch marks,” I said in what I thought was a v. nonchalant tone, “It’s a scar from a scootering accident. They’ll be gone in a few weeks.” 

Flash forward 11 years: I’m still a terrible liar, still got in an actual razor scooter accident, still the tallest/broadest babe in the room, and still have those stretch marks I thought would be longggg gone by the time I was 13.

I pretended my stretch marks didn’t exist for years, and always wore clothing that properly hid them. It wasn’t until graduating college that I found the stretch mark conversation beginning to open up, and felt more comfortable talking about my own. My coworkers chat about them freely, without shame. Voice of the people, Chrissy Teigen, bared her stretch marked/supermodel thighs on Snapchat. My employer, THINX, refused to photoshop them off of the models in our ads. People started talking more--or perhaps, I started listening.

So, my friends, here’s the skinny on the stretch: anybody can have stretch marks, and most women do. This may be from puberty, pregnancy, weight gain, or choice of medication. They pop up on large bodies, small bodies, and in-between bodies. I have one just below my right shoulder blade; my coworker has one on her knee. Stretch marks are alive and well, they always have been, and they’re here to stay. Because of all of this, I must ask the essential THINX question: Why are we not talking about it???! We’re gonna.

 

THE SKINNY ON THE STRETCH: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT STRETCH MARKS

Sooo what are stretch marks, exactly?

Stretch marks are the result of your skin stretching (okay, yes, I know--obvious! Keep reading!) past the limits of your skins elasticity. Stretch marks form in the dermis layer of your skin (epidermis is the outer layer and hydpodermis is the deepest layer.) The stretching and the tearing of the second layer allows for the hydpodermis to show through-- lets consider it peek-a-boo, skin style. 

What do they look like?

Like a snowflake (or maybe your socks after a round in the dryer??)-- no two stretch marks are exactly the same! There are multiple factors that affect their appearance, including their location on your body, the type of skin your have, and how long they have been there. Stretch marks can be pink, red, black, blue, and these can fade into a silverfish/whitish color over time. They are most commonly found on the breasts, hips, butt, stomach and thighs.  

Why are they there?

 There are lottssss of reasons why you may have stretch marks (like, ya know, being a living breathing human, because anyone can get them, friends!) but here are some common reasons:

Weight gain (most often but not limited to when it’s happening rapidly)

Genetics- if your mom is prone to stretch marks, you probably are, too.  

Pregnancy- About 90% of pregnant women get them! NINETY PERCENT. 

Being a women (for real! Around 70% of women get stretch marks throughout puberty, versus 40% of men.) 

-Cushing or Marfan Syndrome 

How can stretch marks be treated?

Retinoid Cream- Retinoid Cream can be applied to recent stretch marks less than a few months old, but isn't always effective. The cream contains trentinoin, which helps rebuild the collagen (please consult your doctor before using this method if you are pregnant.)

Laser and Light Therapies- These treatments involve ablation, or the surgical removal of body tissue. An ultraviolet laser removes the thin layers of skin that surround the stretch mark area, and destroys the molecular bonds within the skin tissue. This treatment is often effective and your skin will heal. Consult with a doctor before recieveing this treatment. 

Microdermabrasion- Microdermabrasion is an exfoliating treatment that removes the most outer layer of skin cells through a hand help device that blows crystals onto the skin. This allows a fresh new layer of skin to grow. 

A Few Natural Remedies: 

Lemon Juice, Castor Oil, and Cocoa Butter are just a few of the natural remedies you can find to eliminate or soften the color of your stretch marks. These treatments are not always effective, but some sound like a veryyyy nice way to feel soft and moisturized (I'm lookin' at you, cocoa butter.) 

Do Stretch Marks need to be treated?

No! Stretch marks are natural and common, and you do not need to go through any treatment to get rid of them specifically. Stretch marks could signify a health problem, but most often it's your body going though the motions. However, its always good to drink lots of water, and keep your skin moisturized for healthy skin. :) 

 

 

 

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